By Leah Zerbe
Our skin is our largest organ — and the part of us that’s most on display. That also means it’s the outermost “shield” that takes on UV rays and pollution … and where tension and impacts of a poor diet may show up first.
Whether you’re looking to enliven your skin and invite a little glow back or you want to set your skin up for long-term success, here are some lesser-known tactics to try.
1. Indulge in Carotenoid-Rich Foods
Foods rich in carotenoids help give many fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. And it turns out, these antioxidants can naturally warm the complexion of human skin and even create the appearance of a tan in lighter-skinned individuals.
It’s always a good idea to make vegetables the centerpiece on your plate. And favoring the carotenoid-containing foods on this list regularly may even give your skin an extra glow boost.
- Winter squash, including butternut squash
- Carrots/carrot juice
- Sweet potato
- Citrus fruits (grapefruit, oranges and tangerines)
- Red peppers
2. Choose A Skin-Supporting Nightcap
How we hydrate our bodies (or don’t) greatly impacts our skin. Up to 75 percent of the human body is made up of water (depending on age). Water is crucial to functions like electrolyte balance, flushing waste products from the body, maintaining the “cushion” in our joints, the transportation of oxygen and nutrients and digestion. Even the human heart beat and normal blood pressure requires adequate water intake.
But the place where dehydration may show up most visually is the skin. While recommendations from health authorities vary, most suggest drinking anywhere between 6 and 13 glasses of water a day.
And for added skin support, try mixing Multi Collagen Protein Beauty + Sleep with 8 ounces of water and enjoy this vanilla chai skin supporter for healthy skin elasticity. (Not a drink mix fan? Try the capsules!)
And take a cue from ancient traditions and drink your water at room temperature or warmer: Icy drinks are said to hamper our “digestive fire” according to Ayurveda.
3. Be Sun Smart
There’s no question the human body thrives on the right amount of sunshine. In fact, when sunshine makes contact with our skin at the right latitude, it triggers the natural production of vitamin D.
But overexposure — and even certain sunscreen and skin treatment ingredients — can lead to skin damage and threats.
One common mistake is relying solely on sunscreen for sun protection. Instead, utilize sun protective clothing, hats and avoiding excessive sun exposure during peak sun intensity.
And when you choose sunscreen and skin treatments, be aware that some contain ingredients that may actually damage your skin when it comes in contact with the sun.
Avoid topical vitamin A ingredients in your skincare when you’ll be spending time in sunlight. These include …
- Vitamin A
- Retinyl acetate
- Retinyl linoleate
- Retinyl palmitate
4. Purify From Pollution
Although human skin acts as a biological shield against air pollution, chronic exposure can negatively impact the skin.
And it’s not just an outdoor thing. Oftentimes, pollution levels inside the home are also full of compounds shown to damage the skin. These include a long list like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxides, particulate matter, ozone and cigarette smoke.
To help protect your skin (and much more), avoid …
- Burning scented candles
- Chemical air freshener sprays and plug-ins
- Harsh cleaners
- Burning/charring meat while cooking
- Harsh solvents, paints and stains
- Furniture and cabinets made of plywood or particleboard
- Vinyl flooring
- Cigarette and e-cigarette smoke
- Make your own nontoxic cleaners.
- Look for formaldehyde-free furniture and flooring.
- Opt for electric vehicles and lawn equipment.
- Consider creating gardens of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers native to your region to cut back on mowing and leaf-blowing pollution.
- Choose truly green building supplies free of VOCs,
- Utilize public transportation or walk to destinations when possible.
- Help protect communities from incineration plants.
- Advocate for clean energy policies to reduce the air pollutants tied to burning fossil fuels.
- Tell your representatives to support updated chemical reform laws so it’s not so difficult to avoid air-polluting products.
5. Keep Your Pillowcases Clean
Silk pillowcases are all the rage because the material pulls less moisture (and moisturizing lotions and serums) from your skin overnight compared to cotton or synthetic fiber counterparts. Still, they are pricey. So if you aren’t in the market for a silk pillowcase, simply washing your pillowcases weekly can help reduce bacterial buildup that can dampen your skin’s glow.
And speaking of sleep solutions to keep skin looking fresh …
Sleeping on your back reduces the sleep “wrinkles,” folds and lines that can, over time, impact the look of your skin.
6. Avoid Excessive Exfoliation
While it may be tempting to slough off that dry winter skin on a daily basis, most experts warn against too much exfoliation.
In general, opt for exfoliating your skin once or twice a week at most, if your skin is up for it. Signs you're overdoing it include:
- Red skin
7. Enjoy Collagen-Building Foods
Collagen loss and reduced elastin can lead to premature wrinkles as we age. And since the body generally starts naturally producing less collagen in your 20s and 30s (and beyond), it’s a good idea to eat more collagen-containing foods and vitamin C- and zinc-containing collagen-boosting foods that play a role in the body’s collagen manufacturing process.
- Leafy greens
- Pumpkin seeds
- Bone broth
(To help get started, try this free collagen-boosting meal plan.)
8. Supplement with Collagen Backed by Real Results
It seems like everyone is touting the skin perks of collagen these days. That makes sense, since collagen is a protein building block of healthy skin. But with dozens of options available, it’s best to find a collagen supplement that features ingredients backed by human clinical trials. Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein boasts a long list of rapid, clinically studied results, including …
- Reducing the appearance of crow’s feet around the eyes in as little as 29 days
- Improved skin tone after 8 weeks
- Healthy hair thickness and growth promotion with reduced hair breakage
- Improves exercise recovery by 53% so you can get more workouts in
Getting your heart pumping not only helps get you in shape, it can elicit a glow, too. Exercising boosts circulation, carrying more nutrients and oxygen to your skin. It’s a two-way street, though. Exercise also helps your body clear out waste products like free radicals, which is a super skin-friendly move.
Regular moderate exercise is also a well-known inflammation tamer, which also helps improve the appearance of skin. If exercise tends to exacerbate a particular skin issue, though, avoid excessively overheating your body and lean into more gentle exercises, like walking and gentle hatha yoga.
10. Keep Your Caffeine in Check
Caffeine increases cortisol levels in the body, which could trigger sebaceous glands to increase production. Many dermatologists suggest limiting coffee to just one or two cups a day if you're looking to give your skin some extra love.
And since many people report improvements in skin after giving up excess dairy and sugar, considering enjoying your java black.
11. Commit to A More Stress-Free Life
This is likely the toughest tip on the list, but starting to say “no” to create more time for yourself is crucial. There’s no doubt that stress is often written all over someone’s face. So committing to a routine to help balance your nervous system is crucial for not only your skin, but your overall well-being and happiness.
Consider practicing this breath exercise to activate your body’s “rest and digest” part of the nervous system. Even practice for 3 to 5 minutes on most days can bring forward big change.
With a B.A. in journalism from Temple University and a M.S. in exercise science from California University of Pennsylvania, Leah Zerbe covers health news and functional fitness topics. She’s also a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is a certified yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. Leah resides on her family’s organic farm in Pennsylvania.